Do You Pay Children for Chores?

“I’m sorry buddy, but parents aren’t perfect. No one is perfect. Haven’t you ever made a mistake before?” I asked my seven-year-old son who was standing outside the cracked door of my bathroom.

“Oh yea.. well I’m going to be perfect when I grow up,” my seven-year-old son said while puffing out his chest. He had opened the door and was standing in front of me while I slumped my shoulders in defeat. I was his captive audience. So much for EVER getting any privacy.

“Really, how are you going to do that?” I asked, but didn’t really want to know.

“I’m going to be perfect because I’m going to be a MILLIONAIRE,” he said with a perfect mix of determination and attitude.

I contained my smile because I knew he would never leave if I actually dared to laugh. “Being a millionaire means you have a lot of money, but it doesn’t make you perfect,” I said with a sigh because I knew it didn’t really matter what I said at that point. He wasn’t listening.

He stormed out of the bathroom, but didn’t shut the door behind him as his last act of defiance. I shook my head and looked at the time on my phone (yes I have turned into one of those people) and started to count down until bedtime. It was one of those days.

I knew why he was mad. He had voluntarily done some chores  earlier in the day and then asked for money as his “reward.” I’m not sure what a seven-year-old with EVERYTHING needs with money, but I didn’t give it to him and he was still fuming. I have never given him money for helping out around the house before, so I was surprised by the request (demand).

I was ecstatic and praised him when he cleaned up his room and then scooped up the poop from the backyard without being asked. I didn’t even freak out when I realized he used the big sandbox shovel to do it instead of the pooper scooper. But, when he asked for money for doing those chores I had this internal dilemma. I want him to learn a good work ethic and I believe in working hard for your money, but should I pay him for voluntarily helping out his family? Shouldn’t he do that simply because he is part of the family?

Ultimately, I told him no I wouldn’t give him money, but that I loved how he helped me and that I would let him select any movie he wanted to watch later on as his reward. He scoffed.

One day when he is older I can see myself offering an allowance for doing chores, but this would be established and the expectations would be clear. To me, what happened today fell into a gray area. I want my children to help me around the house because it is the right thing to do, not because they think they will get something from me. I want them to “make magic,” like my sisters and I used to do to surprise my mother. We would wake up early on a weekend and clean the house – vacuuming and all – just to make her happy. We weren’t asked to do it and she never paid us, but the look on her face was worth every moment (at least until we were old enough to realize we really hated cleaning).

What do you think? Am I over thinking it? Was I being a mean Mom? Would you have handed over some cash? Do you pay children for chores at your house? Please leave me a comment or join the discussion on the Tiny Steps Mommy Facebook page.


Nicole Dash is a writer, blogger and business owner who lives in the suburbs outside Washington, DC with her husband and four children. She started her career as a journalist and copy editor. She also managed public relations and corporate communications for a national franchise company, but in 2006 started a child care business. In 2012, she launched Tiny Steps Mommy, a lifestyle and parenting blog that quickly gained a following and connected her to an expansive group of women-owned businesses. In 2013, she started a digital marketing consulting business that focused on growing community in an authentic way. Through those connections she was inspired to open Play, Work or Dash, a coworking space that also offers onsite childcare up to three hours per day. It is where like-minded professionals pursue their business goals with the extra level of support parents desire; a place where you "bring your kids to work." She is an active member of the Washington, DC blogger community. She has been published on The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamalode and Pop Sugar.




  1. I have never paid my children to do chores around the house (not for their lack of requesting / demanding)… I want them to help out because that’s what families do…but of course, they want something more tangible than the good feeling of making mom happy…they don’t bring it up anymore, and the last time it was mentioned I started adding up all the costs for their extra-curricular activities (oldest plays football, daughter dances competitively, and youngest takes Tae Kwon Do)…just to demonstrate that they are enjoying many fringe benefits and the least they can do is clean up around the house in return…after I tallied the costs, I looked at them and said “either you need to get back to work or you owe me some money!” Haha I think they had a somewhat better appreciation and different perspective after that conversation…especially my daughter…this dance stuff is expensive!
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  2. This is a great topic. I feel like my kids are always expecting rewards for something – like dessert is automatic because they ate their dinner…. I don’t pay my kids for chores, but they are young (4 and 6), and I know all the research that says giving money or external rewards for something actually decreases motivation and satisfaction…. I guess I would agree with you, when they are teenagers and need some spending $ but don’t have a job, that they could be paid for chores, or an allowance. But I think when they are young it is important for them to have the understanding that we all contribute to keeping the house a nice and clean place for all of us to live in. I’m eager to hear other thoughts on this!
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  3. This is a great topic. We have set chores that the kids are expected to take care of. There is no linking of chores and allowances in our home too! You are simply helping out because your part of a family. The allowance is given once a month, after we review their general behavior. If they have acted up a lot or not helped out at all, then no allowance is given. So, there is a weak link, but happily, they don’t connect it with how many times they’ve unloaded the dishwasher! 🙂
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  4. I completely agree with you and made the same decision in regards to my kids. I am not paying them to do chores, but I’m teaching them that we clean up/do chores because we have responsibilities. Trying to instill internal motivation versus external can be a difficult task, but it’s worth it, I believe.
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  5. It’s kind of like the guy who jumps out and washes your windshield when you are stopped at a red light and then asks for money. Nobody likes feeling like they are forced to pay for services they did not negotiate up front, even when it’s with our own children. I have no problem motivating children with money, toys, stickers, treats, or other privileges, but it should be something we agree upon ahead of time. Of course, children pitching in just to make mommy and daddy happy is wonderful and gets rewarded with lots of hugs, thank yous and praise. I think at some point, it makes sense for children to have regular chores and earn an allowance. On the one hand, it would be nice if all family members pitched in for the good of the family without expecting a monetary reward, but on the other, what other opportunities do our kids have to earn money?
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